LAST Thursday, Professor Mike Alleyne of Middle Tennessee State University launched his first book, The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus. The England-born professor said the book — which has a foreword by drummer Sly Dunbar — was inspired by the artistic creativity of the musicians, songwriters, producers and graphic artists whose collective efforts carved out new spaces in popular music. “The stories are truly theirs,” he added.
Alleyne — who addressed the Bob Marley lecture, hosted by the UWI in February — recalled growing up in England during the 1960s when ska was evolving into rocksteady.
“As a lifelong student of popular music history, it is exciting to write a book on reggae complete with colourful images that bring the word of the music to life,” he said.
“This encyclopedia sets out to transmit the reggae experience to the readers, whether they are roots veterans or newcomers.”
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer, Alleyne explained why he believes roots-reggae of the 1970s represents the golden age of Jamaican music.
“It was the original dawn of the music; the initial creative explosion and that can never be repeated. The roots will persist, but that initial moment can never be repeated,” he said.
The book also focuses on reggae album artwork, women in reggae, Rastafari, ganja, and politics.
Weighing on its political aspect, guest speaker Herbie Miller noted Alleyne’s view that the Jamaica Labour Party’s victory in the 1980 Jamaican General Election, changed the tone of reggae.
“The author asserts, ‘Seaga’s (JLP leader) ascension to prime minister after the bloody election of 1980, also seen to usher in a new musical era, one which the spiritual, revolutionary incisiveness that characterised reggae gave way to more material concern. At the same time the music became gradually less progressive and transitioned into dancehall’.”
Miller, curator at the Jamaica Music Museum, added. “Now, let me hasten to say, that not all dancehall (music) is without political and social consciousness. However, is not only the music that transgress. But even those who play, write about and produce the music, themselves have a lot to answer for. Because instead of privileging conscious music, what we are bombarded with most of the times are songs with just vacant ideas,” said Miller.
SOURCE: Jamaica Observer